Bringing back DDT to fight malaria

Countries in Africa and Asia are again being afflicted by massive malaria epidemics that infect and kill millions. DDT, an effective and cost-efficient mosquito repellent, helped reduce malaria death rates by seventy percent in the early 1950s. However, developed nations concerned about the health effects of DDT pressured Third World countries to stop using it, and most did, with disastrous effects.

  • More than 100,000 people died during malaria epidemics in Madagascar in the mid-1980s after DDT house spraying was suspended.

  • Sri Lanka stopped spraying houses with DDT in 1961 and subsequently had a major malaria epidemic.

  • Last year alone, malaria infected over 300 million people and killed more than two million, mostly in Africa.

    One Kenyan researcher, Davy Koech, says that DDT could reduce malaria deaths by eighty percent. Furthermore, DDT has been used in agriculture and public health for 60 years and no study has linked it to human harm; it was banned in 1972 by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency despite a judge’s ruling that there was no evidence for such a ban.

    Yet African countries are forced to follow punitive environmental rules if they want to continue trading with developed nations. Bans and restrictions on the use of biotechnology, fossil fuel, and hydroelectric power, as well as unfair trade tariffs and quotas by developed nations, severely affect economic growth and public health in poor countries.

    Source: James S. Shikwati, Kenyan Environmental Ethics: The DDT Story, Fraser Forum, May 2003.

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    For more on Human Health Risks

    FMF Policy Bulletin/1 July 2003
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